Monday, July 31, 2006


I'm obsessed with maps. I just love them. I can stare at maps for hours. There's something about the representation of the world on paper that appeals to me. From street guides to geologic atlases, I love maps of all scales and types. I really enjoy being able to pinpoint where I am in space and in relation to other places and things. I also like tracing routes of where I've been or where I plan to go. I often think I should have studied cartography instead of archaeology, although I'm not the greatest at geometry...

I was looking at this map today at work and I was reminded of how cool early maps are. It's so interesting to see a society's perception of the world. This is a map of the Toronto area from 1680 called the Map of Lac Ontario ou de Frontenac. Click the maps to see the full sized versions.

It seems to be a French traders' map from the time when Toronto was called Taranto and it was just a trading post. I particularly like the note which reads, "Wild wolves and Iroquois take from this area the greatest proportion of beavers which they bring to the English and the Dutch".

The map below by Spanish cartographer Diego GutiƩrrez shows the extent of European understanding of the Americas in 1562. Check out how serpentine the Amazon is! The eastern coast of North America is exagerrated in size and fjord-iness.

This next one shows the world as it was known to Europeans in 1486. It is based on Ptolemy's Guide to Geography (Geographike hyphygesis) written around 150 C.E.

Note that the Viking exploration of Iceland, Greenland and North America has been forgotten (there are 12th C. maps that do show these landmasses). Notice also that Africa is connected to India!

Next is Matthew Paris' Great Britain, drawn in 1259 (colour version here and more info here). Isn't it gorgeous? Look at Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall criss-crossing the island, and also the many parapet-ed castles. This is the oldest surviving medieval map from England. Good, isn't it?

If I've piqued your interest, here are some more early maps from the Brirish Library.

1 comment :

nicole said...

wow I've found someone else as interested in maps as me!!

they are great should have done some cartography ;)

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